Monday, January 10, 2011

Not Again!

So I was reading the religion section of our local paper on Saturday, and there it was: an Associated Press article titled, "End of days in May?" Tom Breen has the byline. Seems that some 89 year old retired civil engineer named Harold Camping has it all figured out. Drum roll please: Jesus is coming again on May 21, 2011, and Camping's disciples (as you can see from the adjoining picture) are out spreading the word. Please, sir, not again! Camping believes the Bible essentially functions as a cosmic calendar explaining exactly when variouis prophecies will be fulfilled. He claims that events like the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948 are signs confirming his date. Good luck with that, bro—I don't know how many modern false prophets have hedged their timetables on Israel's founding in 1948 only to end up with egg on their faces. We just never learn, I guess.

Reading the article brought back memories of Edgar Whisenant's book 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. Whisenant was also a retired engineer and he was certain from his timetables that Jesus would come to rapture the church sometime between September 11 and 13, 1988, coinciding with the Jewish festival of Rosh Hashanah. I was a pastor in suburban Kansas City at the time, and that book was all the rage. A pastor and his church in a neighboring community became so enamored with it, so convinced of its truth, that some people in the church quit their jobs, spent their life savings, and put their pets to sleep. People in my own congregation asked me for my take on the matter. So the Sunday before the predicted dates I preached a sermon entitled, "Why the Rapture Won't Happen This Week." Of course, the very fact you're reading this blog is a stark rebuke to Whisenant's prediction. He was wrong. And then the dude had the nerve to come back in 1989 and write another book saying he miscalculated and was a year off—Jesus was coming back in 1989 instead. Good grief!

Whisenant joined a long list of false-predictors. I predict Harold Camping will join that list come May 22, 2011. Why is it that some of us just have a hard time accepting Jesus' statement on the matter: "But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone … Be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming …" (Mark 13:32, 35). And when the disciples had a question about such things just before Jesus' ascension, He said, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has set by his own authority …" (Acts 1:7). We don't know. We can't know. We're not supposed to know. I guess the desire to know is just another echo of Eden: this desire to be like God, this craving to know what God knows.

Some might say that these predictors are no big deal. Their dates come and go and they are heard from no more. There's truth in that, but here's the problem: such phony predictions over and over again turn the Christian's "blessed hope" into a sideshow. They disillusion people who put their hope in the so-called prophet instead of in the Lord. And to a skeptical world, these false predictions and their disciples make the church look just plain silly.

Really, we've got all we need to know about these things in the Bible. Ezekiel and Daniel and Isaiah and Jesus and John are good enough for me. We don't need Edgar Whisenant or Harold Camping or Hal Lindsay or Jack Van Impe or any of these so-called prophecy experts to tell us how it's going to all come down. These people seem to stir up one of two pathological conditions in regard to Christ's second coming: apocalyptic fever for the folks who just have to be in the know, or apocalyptic atrophy for those who are so turned off by such imaginative interpretation and speculation that they refuse to even think about Christ's return. Let me suggets a better way, a prescription for these apocalyptic maladies—let's focus on what we do know about Jesus' return, let's focus on what the Bible says: Jesus is coming again; we don't know just when, so let's be ready for Him now.


  1. Stamping Out Harold Camping

    Is Second Coming date-setter Harold Camping worthy of death? He already has a zero batting average after his September 1994 prediction fizzle and, according to the Bible, is a false prophet.
    Nevertheless that California shaman, who should be ashamed, claims he's found out that Christ's return will be on May 21, 2011 even though Matt. 24:36 says that no one knows the "day" or "hour" of it!
    A Google article ("Obama Fulfilling the Bible") points out that "Deut. 18:20-22 in the Old Testament requires the death penalty for false prophets."
    The same article reveals that "Christians are commanded to ask God to send severe judgment on persons who commit and support the worst forms of evil (see I Cor. 5 and note 'taken away')."
    Theologically radioactive Harold Camping and his ga-ga groupies (with their billboards featuring "May 21, 2011") should worry about being "stamped out" if many persons decide to follow the I Cor. 5 command.
    The above article concludes: "False prophets in the OT were stoned to death. Today they are just stoned!"
    PS - For many years Camping was not known as a pretrib rapture teacher. But now, for $ome my$teriou$ rea$on, he seeks support from those who believe in and teach an imminent, pretrib rapture which supposedly will occur SEVERAL YEARS BEFORE the traditional SECOND COMING to earth! For a behind-the-scenes, documented look at the 181-year-old pretrib rapture belief (which was never a part of any official theology or organized church before 1830!), Google "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty," "Pretrib Rapture Diehards" and "Pretrib Rapture - Hidden Facts."

    [Saw the above message on the web! Patsy]

  2. Patsy
    I guess you confused me with the statement you made. about the 181-year-old pretrib rapture belief (which was never a part of any official theology or organized church before 1830!

    Theology/ theos meaning God/ logos/ rational expression. So basically theology is thinking about God and expressing those thoughts in some way. Granted Bibilical theology has been catalogued in various ways
    1) By era patristc theology, medieval theology, reformation theology, modern theology
    2) By viewpoint Arminian theology, Calvanistic theology, Catholic theolgy, Barthian theoloogy, .
    3)By focus:ie., historical theology, biblical theology, systematic theology, apologetic theology, exegetical theology.
    My point is I have never heard the expression official theology.

    As to the original Blog I believe that no man knows the day time or hour of the rapture. As to the rapture I definitely believe it is refered to in prophecy. Even though many don't see the rapture in the Lord's olivet discourse, I believe it holds the clearest picture of Jesus trying to explain it to his disciples, along with his admonition to them in Acts chapter 1.
    Matt 24:3 Based on Jesus statements, the disciples ask Jesus "when will this happen,what will be the sign of your coming at the end of the age?
    Jesus then gives them a topical, not chronological discourse. Jesus deals with end time events under 3 headings: topic number one, the Gentile nations, (24:4-14) topic two the end time events as they affect the Jewish people (24:15-31 the time of Jacob's trouble jeremiah 30:7) finally end time events as they affect the church (24:32-51)no mention of the tribulation is made in verses 32-51.
    The disciples, just like we would, want to know when Jesus is coming back, this is evident at the accension in Acts chapter 1 verse 6. They asked, Lord are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?"
    Jesus tells them. "It's not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
    And in the very next breath he utters his last words on earth to his disciples.
    He tells them they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on them. And
    You will be witnesses of him to the whole world. Then he was taken out of sight into the clouds.
    Witnesses, not judges, not juries, and not to worry about when he is coming back.

    The point, we are all free to our point of view, but let's make sure that on that day we are telling somebody about the saving grace of Jesus.

  3. I do not believe Jesus is frowning on Harold Camping for I think his heart was in the right place, but I very much feel the scorn of Jesus as he looks upon all of us who have made fun of, and ridiculed the notion of the Rapture. Of course we're not to know the exact date. The Bible itself tells us that, but this man truly believing in what he preached was in error and most of us as Christians knew that. But to scoff, belittle, and make sport of the second coming at someone's expense because they erred to me is so not right. So very ugly indeed.

  4. Thanks for the comment, Mollye. I hope I didn't sound as if I was ridiculing Mr. Camping personally. But I'm not sure Jesus smiles on these false prophecies that strictly go against revealed Scripture. In fact, in the Old Testament, false prophets were stoned. The Bible is not written in code, as Mr. Camping suggests. It's written in Hebrew (with a little Aramaic) and Greek. The Bible is not a crystal ball; it's God's word. My prayer is that those who came to faith because of this false prophesy won't now dump the whole thing, and I'm also praying that those believers who bought in won't get disillusioned and give up. These false predictions, in my opinion, don't highlight the doctrine of rapture; they turn it into a circus.